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 # 392  

 February 2002




Global Warming: Administration Could Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory


by Tom Randall

In its annual report to the President, the White House Council of Economic Advisers seems to be setting Mr. Bush up to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on the global warming issue.

"The uncertainty surrounding the science of climate change suggests that some modesty is in order," the report says, in a correct but dramatically understated manner. Then it says, "We need to recognize that it makes sense to discuss slowing emissions growth before trying to stop and eventually reverse it."1

Why?

Either man-made "greenhouse gases" are causing serious global warming or they are not. If they are, we should reduce these emissions. If they aren't, we should not worry about them. If we don't know, we should find out and then act appropriately.

But the Bush Administration can't have it all ways at once.

Until these recent statements by Bush Administration officials, the President seemed to be pretty well settled into the last, and certainly the most reasonable option: wait until we learn if alleged man-made greenhouse gases have any effect on climate change. The public, except for extremists in the environmental leadership, seems comfortable with this option and sticking with it seems most prudent for several reasons.

First, and very important, there is no empirical evidence to support the notion of global warming as predicted by computer models. In fact, the opposite is true.

Those models say the polar regions should be the first areas to warm and that they should warm the most. But new research by Harvard astrophysicists Sallie Baluinas and Willie Soon shows that the polar regions have been cooling over the last 25-plus years.2,3

The same computer models also predict that the troposphere, or lower atmosphere, must warm first under the greenhouse gas effect. Highly accurate NASA balloon and satellite readings have shown absolutely no increase over a similar period of time.4

The global warming scare theory appears to be sinking about the time that some in the White House are urging the President to get on board.

Of even more importance to average Joes is that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy. The U.S. Energy Information Agency has estimated that under the Kyoto global warming treaty, which some in the administration are gingerly cozying up to, energy prices would soar. Gasoline would go up 14 to 66 cents per gallon and electricity bills would jump anywhere from 20 to 86 percent.5

This is why responsible leaders on the issue, such as Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mineworkers Union, and James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union, both of whom have steadfastly supported Mr. Bush's energy plan, have expressed grave concerns about unwarranted actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, said to be the primary greenhouse gas.

The heavy economic impact of reducing carbon dioxide emissions surely also accounts for the fact that, while the European Community criticizes the U.S. for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, not a single EU country has ratified it. In fact, of the 84 countries that signed the Protocol, only 45 undeveloped countries - to which the treaty does not apply - and Romania have ratified it.6

Should the Kyoto treaty or anything remotely like it be adopted by the U.S., the negative economic impacts will fall most heavily on lower income persons, who disproportionately are minorities. A study commissioned by six African-American and Hispanic organizations found increased costs forced by the Kyoto Protocol would cut minority income by 10 percent (while white incomes would go down by 4.5 percent) and 864,000 black Americans and 511,000 Hispanics would lose their jobs.7

The President's advisors also should consider the "Enron effect." Part of the carbon dioxide reduction scheme under consideration is a devious not-so-little program that calls for (at first voluntary) caps on CO2 emissions and the trading of emissions credits. The bottom line on these programs is that they put the large energy suppliers (think Enron) at a huge competitive advantage over their smaller competitors. This is precisely what Enron and other large producers have lobbied for. While there has been no serious hint of impropriety in the development of the President's energy plan, a cap and trade scheme would provide his political enemies the appearance of impropriety they have desperately sought.

On the subject of global warming, cooler heads should prevail. The discussion of what to do about "greenhouse gas" emissions should remain where it has been for most of this administration: off the table until scientific research into climate change is far more conclusive.


Footnotes:

1 Dana Milbank and Eric Pianin, "Global Warming Plan Due," Washington Post, February 6, 2002.
2 Sallie Baluinas, Ph.D. and Willie Soon, Ph,D., "Alaska Is Not Heating Up," TechCentralStation.com, January 22, 2002.
3 For more on this issue, see Amy Ridenour, "New Research Indicates the Earth May Be Cooling," National Policy Analysis #388, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, February 2002, available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA388.html.
4 Willie Soon, Ph.D. and Sallie Baliunas, Ph.D., "Global Warming Facts, Consensus Melt Away," TechCentralStation.com, October 1, 2001.
5 Jay E. Hakes, Administrator, Energy Information Administration, Testimony before the Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, October 9, 1998.
6 Kyoto Protocol status of ratification as of February 7, 2002, available at http://www.unfcc.int/resource/kpstats.pdf.
7 "Study Says Global Warming Treaty Will Hurt U.S. Minorities," Associated Press, July 6, 2000, cited by John Carlisle, "Treaty to Combat Unproven Global Warming Threat Would Hurt Americans' Standard of Living," National Policy Analysis #309, The National Center For Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, September 2000, available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA309.html.

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Tom Randall is the Director of Environmental & Regulatory Affairs of the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC. Comments may be sent to [email protected].




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